I am really hard on lawn mowers. The average lawn mower seems to be designed for someone taller than me so I push at the handle at the wrong angle. Perhaps the bigger problem is that I'm an impatient person who runs over rocks and tree stumps and toys that have been left outside. I can't even count how many lawn mowers I've totalled over the years. One of them even caught on fire, although I swear, I have no idea how that happened.
As soon as we buy a lawn mower, it morphs into a decrepit machine with flaws that will annoy me. Our current mower stalls out about every ten minutes and has a wheel that falls off after about half an hour. When the wheel falls off, I kick it and start swearing, which surprisingly does nothing to fix the problem, but does make me feel better. Lawn mowing is a great sport for releasing aggression.
Our house is set back from the road, which makes for a big front yard, and our big backyard is a septic field that needs to be mown. It's not really a lawn, or at least nothing like the kind of lawns you might see in surburbia, all flat and level and filled with grass. Our lawn has hills and groves of trees and lots of little gardens in odd places, and the ground is covered with tree branches and stalky things like purple loosestrife. It's mostly weeds and wildflowers and clover, with the glossy leaves of poison ivy at all the edges.
Normally, I don't mind mowing the lawn – I just go out in the morning, pick a random patch to mow, stop after about half an hour of nice exercise, kick my sneakers off to leave in the sun, and then go in to take a shower to wash off the poison ivy juice. Then the next time the mood to mow strikes me, I pick another random patch. Shaggy Hair Boy, who got assigned the chore of mowing lawn after both his older siblings complained about how badly they get poison ivy, has the same random method of lawn mowing. So at any given time, parts of our lawn are all different lengths.
Today, though, we decided to mow the entire lawn. See, we are having a graduation party for Boy in Black on Saturday, which gave us the ambitious idea to cut the whole lawn at once. The grass was pretty long because we’ve been on vacation, and some of the weird stalky things were quite high. The nice thing to do would have been to mow in the cool of the evening, but the only way I could do that here is if I tried to mow the lawn while wrapped in yards of mosquito netting.
So instead we ended up mowing the lawn in the hot sun when the air was so humid that I felt like I was moving in slow motion, pulling through thick layers of wet heat. I’d mow for about half an hour, shoving the mower through what amounted to a thick field of weeds, while big drops of sweat slithered down my face and back. When I felt like I was so thirsty that I couldn’t stand it another minute, I would go into the sweltering hot house for a drink, and let Shaggy Hair Boy take a turn.
At the end of the afternoon, I stripped off my sweat-soaked clothes and took a cool shower. I admired how nice the lawn looked, all ready for party, and I was feeling all heroic about the effort we’d made. I felt I deserved a break, a few hours in some air conditioning, so I made plans with my daughter, my niece, and my mother to go out to the movies.
In the car on the way to the movies, my mother mentioned that she had mowed lawn today too. She is in her seventies. Her lawn is bigger than mine. And she somehow mows it all without swearing, losing her temper, or breaking her lawn mower. She's had the same lawn mower my whole life, I think, whereas I seem to break one every couple of years. The conversation made me feel less heroic, but I enjoyed the evening out in a cool movie theater anyhow. And I still felt I deserved some popcorn and lemonade for all my hard work.